Canon PowerShot A810 Review
The PowerShot A810 is the entry-level model in Canon's extensive range of compact digital cameras. Priced at £79.99 / $99.99, the A810 features a 16 megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom lens with a focal length of 28-140mm, DIGIC IV image processing engine, 720p video recording and a 2.7-inch LCD screen. Designed for the layman, the simple functionality should prove a hit with newcomers to photography while the Live button allows more manual control over your pictures. Powered by AA batteries and compatible with SDHC and SDXC memory cards, the Canon PowerShot A810 is available in red, silver or black.
Ease of Use
It seems of late that cameras we expect to see costing around £90 - £100 are popping up at half that price. Take the Canon PowerShot A810 for example. It's a high resolution, slim camera with a decent zoom lens that sits flush in the body. It has a reasonable size screen on the back and isn't too big in overall dimensions. This should be at the higher price and a year or two ago it would have been. So what's changed? Beats us. The camera appears to be identical, if not slightly better than models we've seen at a higher price point.
The lens on the front is a standard Canon type with a 5x optical zoom range. That starts at 28mm and goes out to 140mm in 35mm format. A large chrome bezel surrounds the lens to separate it from the rest of the body. This design allows us to be more sympathetic to the fact that the lens remains black regardless of the colour of the camera. No colour coded lens: that's one thing to show the Canon PowerShot A810's price. The grip sticks out to allow the AA batteries space to be inserted. This can prove handy as it provides the camera with a built-in grip, making it easier to handle when shooting.
On the top of the Canon PowerShot A810, the first thing we notice is that the buttons are a lot bigger than is normally seen on a digital compact camera. The power button sits next to the shutter release while the zoom switch is ringed around the latter. Move to the back and this large button design idea continues through. Buttons that normally take up less than the bottom half of the space next to the screen occupy the entire section. There's no place for a thumb rest on the back, but then we think do you really need it? Arguably not and only using the camera will prove that to you personally.
These buttons are dedicated to various modes and options to ease the picture taking process. At the top, the left button starts and finishes recording video without the need for going into a menu system. Next to it is a handy Help guide to explain what different buttons mean on the off chance you don't have this review handy. Towards the bottom, the left button there accesses the playback screen where you get to watch the pictures and video you've already taken. Located next to that is the Main menu button.
These four buttons surround the navigation pad which is used when in a menu for moving up, down, left or right. When you're not in a menu you can use these buttons for other things such as macro, flash functions, changing the display of the screen or flicking between auto and modes. This latter option is a relatively new feature that Canon have added to their lower end compacts.
The Auto mode is an intelligent version. That is, it can analyse the scene before you take a picture, work out what type of photograph you're taking (portrait, macro, landscape etc) and choose the best mode for it to be in. Pressing the up button cancels this and switches you over to the other modes. From here you can choose from a line of modes including, Program, Live control, Portrait, Low light, Miniature, Toy camera or Discreet. There are many others, but it's a long list. On the surface this all looks very easy to use. Over easy, in fact as though someone has set out to make cameras as simple as is feasibly possible.
The build of the Canon PowerShot A810 is a mass of plastic. The case is obviously a plastic shell including the chrome lens surround. The lens is a standard Canon lens with a 5x optical zoom fitted into it. The lens has minimal wobble even when manipulated, which is good. The screen sits sunken into the body slightly and it must have been a cost issue to make it sit flush with the body. The buttons are responsive and firm. Downsides are the flimsy plastic covering for the USB port and the battery door not having a lock on it. Especially as the batteries are AA types and can prang out when it's opened. The door has enough strength, but no stability on the hinge.
One major bonus is the metal tripod bush on the bottom of the camera. It's rarely thought of as an important part of the camera and there are ways of getting round not using it, so it's probably not THE most important part of the camera. However, to the photographer that enjoys long night shots with car trails, the tripod is a godsend. If you think you'll use it a lot, the metal bush will cope with more use and abuse than a standard plastic one that's generally seen on a camera at this price point.
Canon have spent years getting the menu system correct. The A810 has two menus that you'll use more than any others. The Function menu is accessed by pressing the Ok button in the centre of the navigation pad. It will bring up a small menu to the left of the screen with modes such as ISO, resolution, shooting mode, white-balance, self-timer and burst modes. If you want to change more in-depth modes, press the menu button to go to the Main menu. There are two tabs here, one for camera options, one for the set-up. The camera tab changes areas such as the focus frame, red-eye correction, metering modes, review time and info and i-Contrast. The latter being a feature that optimises the light in the image. It essentially neutralises contrast to enable detail to come out of dark areas and to cap burn out on highlights. The menu is a dark grey background with white lettering and orange highlighter.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
From the powered off position, we managed to get the Canon PowerShot A810 switched on, focused and took a picture in a little over 2sec. An average result is around 2.5sec. The continuous shooting mode on the A810 is just that. It's not a burst mode, so don't expect a flurry of images taken in a short time. We managed eight pictures in a 10 second time period which gives an average of 0.8fps (frames per second). That's a little below par but not too much and we need to bear in mind the cost of the camera. While we can desire a super speedy continuous mode, we can't expect it.
Pressing the button with the blue arrow takes you into the playback menu. The Canon PowerShot A810 will show the image full screen and you can amend the amount of information you wish to display. You can choose between no information, basic info such as the resolution, date & time and file number. There's also the option to include advanced information such as the ISO, aperture, shutter speed, metering mode and exposure compensation. Flicking the zoom switch to zoom out and the you can view them as thumbnails and this happens four times, although by then they're not as easy to see. Zooming the other way will magnify the picture you're currently on. In the menu, playback has it's own section with some basic editing features such as red-eye correction and i-Contrast. There's also a print tab which allows you to connect the camera to the printer using PictBridge and print in certain orders, in certain numbers. In the box, you'll get the camera, a set of 2x AA batteries to get you started, a wrist strap, USB cable for direct connection to a computer, a quick start guide and the CD software which includes the full user manual and a basic viewing and editing software program.